If you have a passion for archaeology, history, and technology, as I do, you are probably already aware of the mysterious Antikythera Mechanism, a badly corroded relic discovered by sponge divers off the coast of Antikythera island in 1900. Intensive study of the relic’s fragments in recent years has revealed an astonishing story of ancient technology far surpassing anything we previously knew.
This strange object appears to be the remains of a 2,000-year-old device that predicted—with remarkable accuracy—a wide variety of astronomical cycles, including the movement of the sun, moon, and the known planets of its time. The device even accounted for minor fluctuations in these cycles that could only be recognized over a long span of time. It accomplished this feat using a complex system of bronze gears, similar to clock designs that would not be invented for more than a thousand years. Based on their findings, researchers have built reconstructions of this device and confirmed its purpose. (For more details about this object, its function, and its history, see the short video at the end of this post, or the longer Nova episode that follows.)
In reading the body of research devoted to this amazing mechanism, one is struck by the number of times the authors refer to the design that went into the construction of the device. They speculate on the identity of the designer whose amazing grasp of astronomy, metallurgy, and craftsmanship made the construction of the machine possible. This thing did not just ooze up out of the mud; somebody designed it and built it to accomplish a specific purpose.
The Antikythera Mechanism, in other words, is a classic example of intelligent design. Here is a case in which modern man is confronted with an object that shows unmistakable evidence of intentional function and design, and seeks from that evidence—as fragmentary and incomplete as it is—to reconstruct the story of who and why it was made. Whatever the gaps in our knowledge, the evidence is overwhelming that an intelligent being created this thing. Anyone who would posit a theory that it evolved from purely natural processes would be laughed out of the room.
Yet when we encounter evidence for design in the universe—evidence that is infinitely more complex and improbable than Antikythera—the gears suddenly shift and all the “smart” people in the room solemnly agree that it must be the result of random, unguided, accidental, naturalistic processes. It “just happened.”
It is not my purpose here to start a debate on the pros and cons of intelligent design. I’m merely drawing attention to what appears to be a fundamental disconnect from reality on the part of those who argue so passionately against the role of design in the remarkable universe in which we live. If they can see it in Antikythera, they should be able to see it in physics and biology.
Unless, of course, there is an underlying worldview that prevents them from doing so.